The 2012/2013 agricultural season in Malawi was characterized by localized drought and flood conditions that led to decreased crop production and subsequent high food prices resulting in food insecurity in most districts. In July 2013, the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) together with the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) estimated that approximately 1.46 million Malawians from 21 districts across the country needed humanitarian assistance for 2 to 5 months of the lean season, spanning from October 2013 to February 2014. There are concerns that the number of people requiring food assistance may reach 2 million before the end of 2013. This figure will be confirmed through the MVAC Update in November 2013.
According to FEWS NET, maize grain scarcity accompanied by high inflation is forcing many to purchase food from local markets at above-average prices. In September 2013, the national average maize price was 114.47 MK per kg compared to 56.18 MK per kg same time last year, showing an increase of 104 percent. At the time of the MVAC assessment (April to June 2013) maize prices averaged MK125/kg. MVAC projects that the price of maize will spike up to MK200/kg during the peak lean period of December 2013 to January 2014.
Food prices are unlikely to decrease given current indications of lower than estimated production levels in the central and northern region. FEWS NET reports that the maize prices this year are higher than the last year and the five year average, with households facing atypically high staple food prices since the start of the 2013/14 consumption season in April. The impact of higher grain prices also greatly affects the urban poor, who are not recipients of humanitarian assistance.
USAID has contributed $18 million to the current response while the Government of Malawi has committed 25,000 metric tons of maize from its Strategic Grain Reserve for distribution to vulnerable populations. The World Food Program (WFP) is coordinating the overall response to which others donors are also contributing resources.
In contributing to building long-term community resilience to food insecurity and promoting sustainable food production, USAID is implementing Feed the Future (FTF) and Food for Peace (FFP) activities across the country. Malawi is frequently hit by prolonged dry spells and floods. The integrated programming focuses on agriculture and food security, nutrition, and livelihoods.
Related Stories and More Information
Transforming Lives: Malawian Farmers Help Each Other During Drought
Frontlines: In Drought-Prone Malawi, Shining Lights of Hope
USAID/Malawi's Sustainable Economic Growth Fact Sheet
USAID/Malawi's Integrating Nutrition in Value Chains Fact Sheet
USAID/Malawi's Climate Change Fact Sheet
Last updated: February 23, 2015